The Emptiness - Poem by Carl Adamshick
I DIDN'T WANT to give my body to war.
I saw news footage of a fly
in a dead man's mouth. I saw a man
made to kneel and then told,
in a language he couldn't
comprehend, to lie flat on his stomach.
The camera caught the bullets entering
his spine, the base of his skull
and then the men walked away
from the emptiness.
The camera too turned and ran
through leaves, green and lashing.
If it had stayed, we would have seen rain
pelt the soldier's back, wash his fatigues.
We would have seen his body as insects
lived on the continent of his flesh,
lived until he was bone, until he was dirt,
until his emptiness sang.
I was afraid of the men walking,
of seeing the sky, lightly clouded, as blood
flowed out of my body. I dreamt
of a helmet with a butchered foot beside it
and knew it was my brother's,
but couldn't remember his name.
I left the green grass of high school,
walked under the tall oaks
to the post office.
I filled in the little boxes with the letters
of my name,
looked out the plate-glass window
at a four-way stop, a flag limp in the heat,
in the bright air. I signed,
telling them where I lived,
that I was willing, that when they sent
the card I'd wear the uniform.
But I lied. I couldn't
have been fitted for the infantry garb,
the sanguinary rank.
In the weeks that followed
I felt occupied, silenced like a clean,
smooth conch echoing the sea,
an open urn.
The emptiness of my mouth
began. I wanted to say I'd seen
the tree of night,
its crown holding the great stars,
the beginning recorded in the center
ring of its bole,
but said nothing.
I saw that we were the ancient text,
the blood, the next inscription
on the unending trunk,
and said nothing.
I stood there and in seeing its splendor
by the senselessness of my nights and days.
The forked branch of my existence
was lit like a crack
My breath, my tongue, the broken font
of my voice had wanted to praise.
And when I didn't speak
I became a secret, a testimony
against my own body. I lived and lived
with the fact that I watched others
struggle and pray.
I watched them lie on the shore
with their heads adrift in a shine of stars
and wanted their hunger
to finally consume their sad, hurting bodies.
I watched, hoping
when the tide came and lifted them away
I could live without shame.
The emptiness. The tongue bound
to the betrayal
held in the mouth, to the apology held
in the mouth, to the brutal remains
held in the socket of the mouth.
And still, under it all,
I feel an orchid, the cold river flow
around my feet. I see the stars
as the shimmering bones
of migratory birds
and swallow the humiliating taste
of beauty. I am the dirt,
the worm-dirge, the lament and procession
winding through a garden burning
I am not the body that dies naked,
swollen and torn,
infested with beetles.
I am not the body that lacks
its funeral and its offering of plums.
I am not the body,
the empty midnight station.
I am not the bombed-out factory,
its machinery covered in snow.
I am veins and breath, the entrance
and exit the world passes through.
I see a quickening end in a blue,
twisted cord and know I am its habitation.
I see the severed hands of a war
and feel it
escape into me like a tired lover
I comfort into the dark hours,
where my body, swathed with heat
and sorrow, listens to air
pass through the gate of its teeth.
The wonderment of being
in the hive, in the astonishment of days,
when light around the field is spilt moon
and memory is a nest
of mud and grass hidden in the bright
when emptiness is an open door,
the well-black pupil of an iris.
I am lost in the living, in the acceptance
of rain filling a bucket,
in the belief
that the chemical burn was a washing
for the exodus
and the smoke rising through the chimneys
into the pale-blue morning was a love song.
There are days when I wake
and find my face is a hole
and I have nowhere to hang my mask.
Comments about The Emptiness by Carl Adamshick
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Still I Rise
The Road Not Taken
If You Forget Me
Edgar Allan Poe
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You